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The Art of Live Tweeting

Dec 30th, 2013 | By
live tweeting

Live tweeting from events: real time social reporting.

Have you ever felt the thrill of knowing that hundreds follow -in real time- every sentence you type? Have you experienced the excitement of moderating a live discussion amongst dozens of people, spread all over the world, from your keyboard? The exhilaration of trying to catch what you see and hear, and convert it into captions of 140 characters…?

Welcome to the world of “Live Tweeting”!

Live tweeting: the screwdriver in the social reporter’s toolkit

More and more conferences and workshops use social media to report live from the event. Dubbed “Social reporting”, this live crowdsourced reporting is a mesh of live blogging, podcasting, vlogging, webcasting and real time online discussions. Social reporting has become THE way to involve an online public, with onsite events.

“Live Tweeting” is the most interactive social media tool used to broadcast live snapshots and to moderate online discussions.

And there you have it: the two key factors why we live tweet from conferences:

  • Broadcast snapshots: “sound bytes”, quotes, interesting facts, figures, statements, links to reference material,… all condensed into single tweets. Mixed with an occasional picture, short video snapshot, links to the presentations (on Slideshare of course) given at that very moment, and you have all the ingredients of giving a offsite (but online) public an “impression” of what is happening at an event.
  • Moderate online discussions: With its ability to monitor incoming comments and questions, and to moderate a live online discussion, Twitter is the best suited tool to integrate an offsite public into an onsite discussion.

But, live tweeting, as many social media and social reporting tools, is a combination of an art and a skill.

Imagine this scenario: You are part of a group of 50 social reporters at a conference on climate change. Each of the social reporters has been assigned a task, and you are to live tweet from one of the conference sessions. The session is a presentation by, say, Dr.Amrit Mukhbar from an NGO called “Crossed Green”, and tackles the impact of urbanization in developing countries, on global climate change.
You are to live tweet this session with two of your colleagues.

How will you tackle that? Well, you can just step into the auditorium and start shooting off tweets, or… you can follow my ten tips for live tweeting champions: :)

Tip 1: Prepare your cheat sheet

I always have a text-only notepad (flat ASCII text, no formatting), where I prepare my notes, ready to copy and paste into live tweets.
I will always have a couple of things on that notepad window:

  • The correct spelling of the speakers’ names, including their Twitter handle
  • The correct spelling of the speakers’ organisation (in full and their abbreviation), and their Twitter handle
  • A list of links to reference material, all pre-shortened with of course. Behind the link, I note (for myself) what this link is about
  • The conference hashtag: you might laugh, but the less I have to think during live tweeting, the better. So I’d rather copy and paste the hashtag, than having to stop my brain for 5 seconds to recall that darned hashtag again. And miss-spell it along the way…
  • A number of pre-cooked tweets, which I can use as “fillers”, if we have some dead time. I can pre-cook these tweets from the conference abstracts, reading material, or session announcement in the conference proceedings…

And beyond that, my notepad will also have a field, which I use to “construct” live tweets, as I never compose tweets in a live Twitter tool (“OMG, I hit return before I finished my tweet. OMG, I am gonna die!!” #AvoidThatFeeling !).

I pre-format that field, with a heading showing the length of the tweet (using an even-spaced font like “Courier”):

    00        10        20        30        40        50          130
123456789012345678901234567890123456789012345678901234567890 (..) 0123

Underneath this heading, I will compose my tweets.
Note that the maximum number of characters I use in a tweet, is “140 minus the length of (RT+space+my handle)” to facilitate people who want to retweet me in the old “RT”-way. (“RT @handle”)

Tip 2: Cheat as much as you can

Some speakers will prepare their speech on forehand. Your life as a live tweeter, will be 100x easier, if you can get hold of that speech, and convert it into a series of pre-cooked tweets. Or get a copy of the speaker’s presentation.
The only thing to do, during the speech itself, is to copy and paste the pre-cooked tweets into a Twitter tool.

Tip 3: Find a proper place to sit

Find a spot where you can plug your laptop charger. Most conference sessions last longer than your battery. Find a spot where you can hear and see well, and where you have space to spread out your stuff. Most conferences provide WiFi coverage, but not all spots in the room might have proper reception. I have a tool on my laptop which measures the WiFi signal strength. That is why, when I live tweet, you will see me walking around the conference hall with my laptop in my hand, well before the session starts.

Tip 4: Huddle together with the other social reporters

If you live tweet with several people, from the same session, sit together. It makes it so much easier to “divide up” the work, and to verify, if what you heard, is correct (“Did he just say “200,000 people migrate to urban areas per year, or was that per day?”). Avoid tweeting the same quote – or even worse – the same passage but with conflicting quotes or numbers.

Tip 5: Make sure you tweet the quotes correctly

As most of your tweets will be quotes and sound bytes, attributed to the speaker, make sure that every tweet is correct. Avoid the embarrassment of having to publish rectifications after the event!
And, attribute your tweets. Most of my live tweets have the format:

Name_of_speaker: [quote] #[conferencehashtag]


Mukhbar: Per day 200,000 people migrate from rural to urban settings #GoGreen

Tip 6: Live with the fact that you can never tweet fast enough

It will take minutes for you to compose one single live tweet. Live with the fact that you will never be able to tweet as fast as someone speaks.

Tip 7: How to select which quote to tweet

I listen to my heart beat, while attending a presentation. When I hear something that raises my heartbeat, then that must be an interesting passage or quote. If it excites me, it will excite my online public. And that will be my indicator for a tweet-able quote.

Tip 8: Tune in and tune out

Once I grab a sound byte which would be interesting to tweet, I stop listening to the speaker, and concentrate solely on converting that quote into my 140 characters tweet (or 140 characters minus the space left to retweet).
One more reason to sit together with your fellow social reporters: Once you tune out, you can give a sign to others “I am  out, and you are in”: you’re no longer listening, so it is time for others to listen and catch a quote.

Tip 9: Beef up your tweets with links

When you can relate one quote to the piece of reference material, for further reading (something you might have prepared before the session), embed that link within your tweet.

Tip 10: Monitor and moderate the online conversation

If I live tweet alone from a session, I always have my laptop for the actual live tweeting, and a tablet to separately monitor the conference hashtag for incoming questions and remarks, and to moderate the discussions. My time will be split between capturing quotes, tweeting them and monitoring the discussions.
If you live tweet with several social reporters from the same session, you might allocate one social reporter for the online moderation.

And people ask me: what is an acceptable rate for a good live tweeter. My answer is: it depends on the speech or presentation. Some presentations are so boring, I might only be able to find five quotable tweets in an hour. Others are so interesting, I can not tweet fast enough to capture it all, but live a happy life knowing I broadcasted 20-30 tweets in an hour.
…While knowing every single tweet was correct. :)

Happy live tweeting!

Picture courtesy Sara Jawhari (Electronic Intifada)

How to convert “social media reach” to “impact” – Part 2

Apr 27th, 2013 | By

Kenya farmer fertilizing potato field

In part 1 of this series, we made the case that a high “reach” – the amount of people you reach via your social media efforts, does not mean a high “impact”, unless your audience is your actual target audience.

So how can we do better? Well, follow four steps:

  1. Identify your target group
  2. Inventorize your target group’s social media channels
  3. Interact with your target groups
  4. Measure your impact

During our CGIAR workshop, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) as a test case.

Step 1: Identify your target group

Kenya potato seedlings

Any organisation taking its web presence seriously, should define its target audience. Unless you define your target audience, your web presence will be a mere “shout in the void”.

And putting it bluntly, if your target group is twelve-year-old youngsters, your online approach and content will be drastically different than if your target senior scientists, no?

For CCAFS, we defined the following target groups:

  • policy makers (working on climate change issues)
  • researchers (working on climate change issues related to food security and agriculture)
  • internal partners (partners within the CGIAR system, and staff implementing the CCAFS program)
  • selected universities (partnering with them on projects)
  • donors (both existing and possible future ones)
  • public media (in general, not only those working on climate change)

A pretty easy exercise, no? That was the “thinking part”. Now comes the “sweat part!”.

Step 2: Inventorize your target group’s social media channels

Inventorizing ICRISAT seed bankIn the old times, media and PR people collected fax numbers of their target audience so they could send them press releases. Well, in modern times, we do exactly the same. Except that, now, we work with their social media channels. So, high time to fill our “Social Media Filofax” with data!

In the case of our example, the CCAFS team knew the key players for each of their target groups. So for each of them, we will now fill up our database with all their social media channels. Where are they on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube? What are their blogs?

And because these are all “social media channels”, we also look at the people whom our target audience “be-friend” or “follow”, or by whom they were “be-friended” or “followed” in turn.

Using Twitter as an example, it is pretty easy to follow the followers of another Twitter account. Is the Gates Foundation one of your current or potential donors, working in your target area? Well then:

  • use the Twitter web interface to log into your Twitter account.
  • Go to the URL: … showing who the Gates Foundation is following.
  • Ah… interesting, they have over 500,000 followers, but only follow about 200 people. If Gates is indeed a potential donor, then I bet some of the people they follow, are also part of your target audience!Twitter following screenshot
  • If so, just click on “follow” next to the follower YOU want to follow.

Do the same for every single Twitter account you find for your target group. And do the same stuff for every single person/organisation in your target group, and for all of their social media channels. Start sweating!

By the way, you will now say “Hey, but you make me follow people, that does not mean they will follow me back”. Well, in the “professional Twitter environment”, my statistics show that 50% of the people you start following, will follow you back…

Step 3: Interact with your target groups

Party hat

Once you have those long lists of where your target audience hangs out in Social Media Land… it is time to… paaaartyyyy!

What do you do on social media? Right, you interact!! No use to have 2,000 Twitter followers if you keep dead silent on Twitter. So start tweeting those links you find interesting, tweet your news bulletins, retweet interesting stuff…

After a few weeks, it’ll be time to check who in your target audience is following you back. You missed some? Send them a reply on Twitter:

“Hey @Gatesfoundation – we’re finally on Twitter, and we got stuff you are interested in! (link to your blog)”

What always works out well, is if you can find out who physically manages social media for your target audience. For large organisations and donors, often it’ll be a dedicated person, sitting at the buttons of the Twitter and Facebook accounts. Send these people an email, introducing yourself. Network with them, and their social media friends. Those people have raw social media power at their finger tips.

You follow a similar approach for blogs. Start following updates of all the blogs from your target audience. Leave regular comments. Ask questions on their blogs. Get to know the actual blogger. Once you have interesting content on your blog, send them an email and ask them if they would like to publish a summary of your post. Or even better, if they could put in a link to your blog in their blogroll. Check if they’d accept a guest post from you. Do whatever, but please… INTERACT…!

After a few months, your social media channels should be buzzing, so time for part 4:

Step 4: Measure your impact

tape measure“Nice figures! But what difference does it make?”, your boss rightfully said. But, now, we have done it differently. This time, we are sure our target audience is following our social media channels, we are also sure that our “reach” is targeted. If people in our target audience read our blog posts, our reference documents on our website, read and retweet our Twitter links, leave comments and “Likes” on Facebook, etc… then we converted “reach” into “impact”.

Because your social media channels are now filled with people amongst your actual target audience, it is time to start measuring the actual buzz you get from that target audience.

Draw the same statistics you used to, but relate them to your target audience. Just a few examples:

  • measure incoming blog traffic, but check which traffic comes from your target audience’s blogs
  • count the comments coming from your target audience
  • measure the “retweets” and “Facebook likes” from your target audience
  • measure incoming links from your target audience’s web sites and blogs

And now, ladies and gentlemen, we are ready to answer our boss on his question. Our answer is now: “These figures represent not only how much our content was read by the general public, but also by our target audience!”.

Congratulations, you have turned “Reach” into “Impact”.
You can collect your pay raise now :)

Pictures courtesy CCAFS/CGIAR/, IconFinder, and Totally Bike
Post edited from an earlier published guest blog on ICT-KM’s blog.
With thanks to Antonella Pastore and Enrica Porcari.

How to convert “social media reach” to “impact” – Part 1

Apr 27th, 2013 | By
kids in Ghana

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives
(Jackie Robinson)

A while ago, we had a workshop with the key media people from the Global Agricultural Partnership, CGIAR.

One of the key discussions was on The difference between “reach” and “impact”: How can we shift from aiming for higher blog visitors, to what really matters: using our social media outlets for a deeper impact. How do we achieve that impact, and how do we measure that?

The Day You Figured Out, You Had It All Wrong

As the public awareness person of your nonprofit organisation, you are a happy chap. One year ago, you started to actively engage in social media. The visionary in you saw social media as a great outlet for your advocacy campaigns.

And what a year it has been.. Starting from scratch, your blog now has 3,000 visitors per month. Your YouTube channel shines with 1,000+ views, and so does your Flickr account. 1,500 “Likes” star on your Facebook page, but your Twitter account beats it all: 2,000 followers! I mean, in one year!!!

Proud as a peacock, you write it all up, in a status report, which, with a wide smile on your face, you put it in your boss’ pigeon hole. “If this does not give me a good pay raise, nothing will”, you think.

The next morning, your report comes back from your boss. With only one sentence written on it: “Nice figures! But what difference does it make?”.

Darn! That [[censored]] of a program director! Apart from his dysfunctional relationship with IT tools, and born mistrust of “the social media circus” (as he calls it), he still doubts the figures you give him? I mean, how does he dare? It is all there. In black and white.

Well, I got bad news for you: Your boss is right.

CGIAR, at the forefront of social media

I loved to work with CGIAR’s media, advocacy, and public information folks. They really have “a message to bring”. I mean, looking at it from my perspective, as a “content generator”, these people have a new story or video idea under every single table and chair. There are stories with key message EVERYWHERE. From seedbanks in India, to stopping erosion in Kenya, to the use of zai’s in Burkina Faso.

To top if off, the “media” people are a very dynamic bunch, who embraced social media already a while ago. But after the initial spur of enthusiasm, many of them too asked the question: “Nice figures! But what difference does it make?”

From reach to impact

Most of the literature on “Return on Investment (ROI)” in social media, relates to for-profit organisations. The few articles applicable to nonprofit organisations I could dig up, concentrated on measuring the RoI through the amount of funds raised via the social media channels. That’s pretty obvious and easy to measure. But… CGIAR does not raise funds via social media, so now what?

Well, first of all, I was pleasantly surprised by how many people already tracked their web activity figures: Google Analytics, stats, and retweet statistics on Twitter… But that, to me, defines the “reach” of our social media efforts: how widely the content spreads. But it does not define the “impact”: “did we reach our target audience, so did our content instill a change?”

It is not because you have a wide “reach”, that you will have a high “impact”. I can challenge anyone: I can start up a social media campaign, have 10,000 visitors on my new blog within the first month. 1,000 followers on Twitter. 10,000 views on my Flickr pictures But what does that mean? Nothing, if my visitors are not my target audience.

Enough preaching. In the next part, we will give some practical tips on how to convert “reach” into “impact”.


Edited from an earlier published guest blog on ICT-KM’s blog.
With thanks to Antonella Pastore and Enrica Porcari.

Study: What makes people follow you on Twitter?

Apr 26th, 2013 | By
What influences your Twitter follower growth?

Potential Twitter followers are influenced by our Tweetbehaviour
(click for high resolution graph)

OK, if we’re going to talk about “Increasing your Twitter followers”, then we’re going to do this well: We’ll remember that an increased Twitter following is not a goal, it is a means. A means to expand your reach, so you can deliver your messages to a wider audience, and increase your impact.

So, first things first: When you use Twitter for your organisation’s outreach, define your target audience before you even think of increasing your followers. “More” is not “better”, as there is a big difference between “reaching a lot of people” and “reaching those who matter”.

There are many “tricks of the trade” to increase your Twitter following actively, but few realize how much your own “Twitter behaviour” also influences your Twitter growth. Many people “check you out” before deciding to follow you, at least in the “professional Twitter” environment. Researchers at Georgia Tech analyzed which factors matter when “being checked out”.

Their report is based on analysing 500 Twitter users, tweeting over 500,000 times in the past 15 months. The researchers recorded each user’s follower growth, and analyzed what it was about their tweets and behavior that lead to growth.

Here were their findings – and we start with the most significant factors first:

Good: Number of connections in common

“A friend of a friend is also my friend”, or in other words: People feel comfortable in following someone followed by someone they follow themselves. The typical Twitter snowball effect: get a good targeted following, and almost by default, others in that target group will follow suit. The power of social media networking…!

Good: High frequency of others retweeting your tweets

A “retweet” or “mention” is generally perceived as “a vote of confidence”. The more you get retweeted, the better. Others, outside your network, but within the network of your followers, will see the retweets, and will almost “naturally” get interested in you. “If my friend speaks highly of someone, there is a good chance I’ll find that person interesting too”.

One practical tip: Make it easy for others to retweet you (one of the tips in my Twitter tutorial)!

Good: High frequency of informational tweets

Your tweets have to contain “original content“, preferably with links to information. Tweeps who only mention or retweet others are taken less seriously, and will less likely be followed. Obvious, no?

And be social: don’t just broadcast your own content. Broadcast also content from others.

Bad: Too many “broadcast” tweets

On the other hand, don’t make the common mistake of only broadcasting information. You need to interact: Retweet, mention and quote others. Engage in conversations. Be a socializer, not a preacher.

If people see that you interact, they will be more likely to follow you.

Bad: Too much negativity in your tweets

Don’t bitch and whine the whole time. Put positivity, hope and humour in your tweets. If people want to get depressed, they’ll watch the evening news.

Good: A detailed profile description or “bio”

Before I follow anyone, I check out their Twitter profile. A good profile tells me a lot about the tweep:

  • Upload a profile picture: Hey, why would I follow you if you don’t even go through the trouble of uploading a picture? Use a significant picture: Close-up of your face (for personal Twitter accounts) or for organisations, your logo or a representative picture. Remember that profile pictures are always shown in a small format. Make sure people can see what the picture represents.
  • Put a URL in your profile: makes it easier to check out who you are, what your organisation is all about.
  • List your location: Helps people “recognizing” who you are.
  • Make a good profile summary: Ensure that people understand what you are all about. Highlight your interests or your focus areas. Use the full profile length. Don’t give me just two words, unless if they are really catchy. And please: no grammar or spelling mistakes!

Good: “Burstiness” of your tweets

Often people ask me “how many tweets should I broadcast per day?“. My answer always is: “As many as YOU would expect from those YOU follow”.

The general perception is that people don’t like “noise”: In general, “too much is never good”. But that is relative: For some of my Twitter news channels, I broadcast about 32 tweets per hour. For the same channels, I also give people the option of following the same news channel at a lower volume, 2 tweets per hour. The average ratio I have is: 5% likes the lower volume, 95% prefers the higher volume.

I have to admit that 32 tweets per hour is rather extreme, but in general, people want to see “activity” on your Twitter account. If I see they only tweet once per week, it is unlikely I will follow you.

But there is something else, quite interesting: The report shows that people like “burstiness”: a sudden peak of fast, consecutive tweets increases your “follow-a-bility”. Research by Twitter shows that posting a “concentrated number of tweets in a short time span”, live tweeting an event for instance, can increase your engagement by 50%. And “engagement” like retweets, mentions and interactions, are very positive influencers for your “follow-a-bility”, as we mentioned earlier.

Good: Decent ratio of “followers” versus “following”

Few will follow tweeps who are not followed by many. Another positive factor is the balance between how many you follow versus how many follow you. Take two tweeps, A and B. If both have 1,000 followers but A follows 200 and B follows 5, people are likely to follow A rather than B.

It comes down to being social: In general, “active” social tweeps will follow a good number of people themselves.

But don’t overdo it. Even if a tweep has 100,000 followers, I get suspicious if they follow 50,000 themselves. This, to me, is a sign they don’t monitor their own Twitter stream. Nobody can keep up with the amount of tweets coming from more than 2,000 people. It is highly unlikely you will get a lot of “social contact” with a Tweep who follows 50,000 people…

Bad: Too many useless hashtags into your tweets

People browsing online media “like it simple”, especially on “vapourware” like Twitter. On Twitter people’s attention span is measured in “seconds”, not minutes.

Hashtags should be used carefully and sparingly. Too many hashtags within the tweet reduces the readability. If you use hashtags, put them at the end of your tweet. Some people use hashtags for common words like #poverty or #hunger or #aid.. Not only do I hate that, but also, it is utterly senseless.

Good: Easy to read tweets, but not too simple neither

In just a few seconds, someone should be able to read and understand your tweet, and get interested in it. Make your tweets easy to read. Sculpt your tweets.

I know it is difficult to condense a thought or statement in less than 140 characters, but it is an art you can master by practice. Was it Hemingway who said that it is more difficult to write short stories than long stories?

But don’t sculpt your tweet with the language of a three-year old neither. The Georgia Tech study shows that tweeps using an average of 2.36 words longer than 7 characters, are more likely to be followed. So go and start calculating (c-a-l-c-u-l-a-t-i-n-g – that’s 11 characters, cool!).

Now go! And multiply your followers! :)

I discovered the The Georgia Tech report via Business Insider and Poynter, all thanks to my old friend Temmy Tanubrata.

Writing Good Blog Posts: The Art of Seduction

Apr 14th, 2013 | By
old typewriter

Writing good blog posts: a gift, an art or a skill?


For some people, writing comes natural. For most, it comes with pain. Certainly when writing for a specific and demanding audience, like blog readers.

Putting it bluntly, blog readers are lazy and hasty. Blogs are like inflight magazines: something “light” one can read in between other work, a piece of literature which is more often “scanned” than read. So whatever you do, don’t ask an effort from blog readers, but make it easy for them. They have other, more valuable things to do. :)

And IF you want them to do an effort in reading your blog, then you will need to seduce them, and make it worth their while. After all, they have hundreds of other blogs to choose from. So most of my blogging tips are centered around “Blogging: the Art of Seduction”.

While many have written about the “Art of Blogging” before, here are my ten writing tips for good blog posts. They are based on several training sessions for CGIAR researchers, and on a recent workshop for scientists at CIFOR, the Center for International Forestry Research. So forgive me if my tips are slightly biased towards “how to make scientists good bloggers”.

1. Make titles short, simple, catchy and clear.

The first thing people will read, is your title. If your title does not excite them, in five seconds, they will flip to the next blog. So, as part of the “Art of Seduction”, the title should “lure” them into reading on.

A title should be catchy, an attention grabber. It should be grammatically clear. Don’t let people read a title twice before they understand it. Keep it simple and condensed.

A title should not, as in scientific papers, summarize the content, but rather be a single line teaser. One of my all time favourites is “Too hot for chocolate?“, a blog piece by Neil Palmer about the effects of climate change on cacao production.

One important remark, though: titles which excite readers might be meaningless for search engines. So distinguish both: titles for readers and titles for search engines, by using an SEO (Search Engine Optimization) plugin for your blog. In the example of “Too hot for chocolate”, the SEO title might be: “The effects of climate change on cacao production”, pleasing both the readers and crawlers. — If you have a blog without proper SEO, you miss out on more than 50% of your traffic, which comes from search engines.

2. Sculpture your first paragraph.

In the “Art of Blogging Seduction”, after your title, you are now ready for your second date with your blog reader: your first paragraph. If your first paragraph is boring, long, complicated or ask for too much of an effort from your reader, you will loose their attention. And -Pooooffff- off they go.

No matter how much time you spend on your blog post, spend twice as much attention on your first paragraph.

Like for titles, first paragraphs should not be a summary of your blog post, but rather an extended teaser, leading into the main part of your blog post.

3. Tell a story

As part of our blog training for researchers, we found many scientists are good writers, but bound by a formulaic approach to report on their research. In nearly every scientific field, journal articles start with a general introduction, then give methods, results, and a discussion. In blogging terms: boring!

In a blog, you are not subject to those limitations. You need to grab your readers’ interest, then lead them through the content in a way that satisfies their curiosity. You might start with an anecdote, a teasing statement, a couple of questions.

Through the body of your post, you take your reader by the hand, and walk them through the story, up to the conclusion, which rounds up the story.

Blogs are often written from a personal perspective. What did you do, what do you think about the subject. This is a challenge for scientists, who are used to write objectively, peer-reviewed and all. In the science world, blogs are often subjective pieces about an objective content.

4. Use pictures

A blog post without a picture, is not a good blog post, simple as that. Use at least one picture at the top, under the title, or in the first paragraph. It will help stir up the interest and attention of your reader. Seduction, remember?

You can use several pictures, or illustrative figures within the body of your post, but make sure not to over-do it. I rarely use more than one picture per blog post.

5. Make it short

My statistics show that people spend an average of two to three minutes reading one blog post. If you want to stretch their attention span, you’ll have to make it worth their while.

It is more difficult to write a short blog post than to write a long one. So, make an effort to shorten your post. About 500-800 words is a general rule. If the story is interesting, it can run long a little longer.

6. Use a simple, concise but a correct language

Most blog readers are not native English speakers. Avoid complex sentences and complicated Oxfordian English idioms. Make short sentences, running over one or two lines only.

Oh, and spell check your text! A simple language is no excuse for grammatical errors. I usually proofread my blog posts aloud. It helps me spot mistakes or errors in the flow of sentences.

7. Use short paragraphs

“Air” your text: split your blog post into paragraphs. Use plenty of blank lines between different parts. If your blog post is longer than a page, use paragraph titles to structure your text.

8. Use hyperlinks

When you write a blog post about a scientific subject, back up your statements with links to reference literature. Use links to illustrate what you talk about.

9. Round up your blog post

Unless if it is intended to stir up your readers, your blog post should have an ending. “The End” should give the reader a feeling that the story is complete. It should be a conclusion, a solution, a clear end to a summation of things,.. Whatever your ending formula is, the reader should think: “Ah, I have understood what the issue is”.

Like in movies “The End” of a blog post should never come as a surprise.

10. Have fun

If you have fun writing a blog post, grinning as you go along, there is a good chance your readers will smile too. If you get all excited and winded up, probably your readers will be too. The more fun you have, the more inspired you will write.

After all, “seduction” should be fun and exciting, no?


Ready for more? You might also be interested in Hemingway’s tips for bloggers.

This post is inspired by a blogging guide by Michelle Kovacevic (CIFOR)
Picture courtesy Channel4

Is your Twitter account hacked?

Dec 19th, 2012 | By

Twitter account hacked

More and more Twitter accounts are sending out unsolicited spam tweets without the owner even noticing it. These tweets are sent either as “replies” or as “direct messages” to the account’s followers.

The spam tweets look like this:

  • exactly what are you doing on that video clip  + link
  • some real nasty stuff said about you here + link
  • this guy is saying some bad things about you + link

All links go to spam sites, or malware sites. A nuissance for all, and a guaranteed way to loose Twitter followers fast.


How to secure WordPress timthumb.php

Sep 16th, 2011 | By


If you have a selfhosted WordPress blog (, take urgent measures to secure your site from a recently discovered vulnerability.

Many WordPress themes and plug-ins use a script called “timthumb” (timthumb.php). This is the most common code used to create thumbnails from pictures.

End July, a vulnerability surfaced showing external users could dump malicious code onto your site. Typically, a short piece of .php code is uploaded via a timthumb backdoor. This hacking code then creates a wider backdoor to gain pretty much full access to your site.


How to win the religious war on CMS’es?

Jun 23rd, 2011 | By
Content management systems

Which content management system is the best?

“I need a website for my organisation”, people tell me, “which software should I use?”.

I answer with an other question: “I want to buy a car. Which car should I choose?”

The choice of a car depends on what you want to do with it: You need to go off-road? Transport goods? Race? Drive your kids to school,…? Unless if you defined your needs, you will never be able to choose the right car.

The same goes for a Web Content Management Systems (or CMS for short). Do you have simple hierarchical pages or is your content more complex? Do you need to access multiple databases to present data in maps and graphs, or is your content flat text and graphics? Do you need to support transactions, user groups updating different content, discussion forums, multiple languages? Do you have a specialised team to manage your web, or do you want to do it yourself?


How to compress pictures with Picasa

Jun 16th, 2011 | By

Picasa lets you edit, crop and compress pictures

I am often asked to review blogs and websites. One of the most common problems I find, is simply that blogs are “slow”…

A slow blog is no good. Believe it or not, most of the speed problems are caused by oversized and uncompressed pictures and graphics.

Many bloggers have difficulties to understand the difference between the actual size of a picture (in kbytes), and the physical size (in pixels) on the blog: A small 100 x 100 pixel picture on a blog can be several megabytes.

Here’s why: When you upload a 2000 px x 1000 px, 3 Mbyte picture onto your blog, and resize it to -say- 400x 200 px in your editor, the actual picture downloaded by your browser is still the original 3 Mbyte picture.


How to monitor your brand on the Internet

Jun 14th, 2011 | By
vintage hearing aid

The Internet is talking. But are you listening?

In the old days, public relations people would save clippings of newspaper and magazine articles mentioning their company or organisation. Even though nowadays, news travels much faster and spreads wider, it seems public media people often no longer have their ear on the ground.

It sounds like a contradiction to me: In the current age of social media, just about anybody can publish anything about your organisation, and have it viewed by millions, in seconds, by the simple push of a button. Would you not want to know what’s being said about your organisation?

Even more of a contradiction is the fact that free Internet and social media monitoring tools are available, so what more do you want?


From social media “reach” to “impact”

Jun 9th, 2011 | By
CGIAR Comms meeting

In a workshop with CGIAR communicators

When using social media for nonprofit causes, it is easy to get stuck on “reach”: the amount of visitors on your blog, “followers” on Twitter, “Likes” on your Facebook page etc..

Particularly for blogs, some actually take my tips on analyzing traffic figures really seriously. And that is good, but it should not stop there. It is not because you have 10,000 returning visitors per month on your blog (“Reach”), that your blog makes a single iota of difference (“Impact”), UNLESS if your visitors are really part of your target audience.

That not only goes for blogs, but for all social media channels: Unless if you define your target audience, and track the activity of your target audience on your social media outlets, you will never be able to measure the real impact you have. Simple as that…

And it is so easy for us to get stuck on “Reach”, while it is hard work to ensure we make a real “Impact”. More difficult to define, more difficult to measure.

Converting “Reach” to “Impact” was one of the topics discussed at a workshop with the communications and knowledge management gurus from the CGIAR last month in Nairobi.

In simple words, CGIAR is the “federation” of all international centres doing agricultural research for the benefit of the poor. Call it a humanitarian organisation working to eliminate hunger by improving all aspects of agriculture: from breeding better crops, to new use of fertilizers, conserving the bio-diversity, live stock research and finding a good cross-utilization of fish ponds and irrigation. Worldwide.

Needless to say, these people have “a message to bring” and “stories to tell”, but only relevant if they can have a real impact. True for CGIAR, and true for all nonprofit organisations.

During the workshop, we defined a way how to ensure our blog stories, our tweets, our Facebook links, our YouTube videos and Flickr pictures have an impact? And how to measure that impact?

In short, you follow 4 steps:

  1. Identify your target group
  2. Inventorize your target group’s social media channels
  3. Interact with your target groups
  4. Measure your impact

In more details:
How to convert “social media reach” to “impact” – Part 1
How to convert “social media reach” to “impact” – Part 2

Edited from earlier published guest posts on ICT-KM’s blog.
With thanks to Antonella Pastore and Enrica Porcari.
Picture courtesy ILRI/MacMillan